There is a seemingly endless discussion on Jetcareers (although it's been quiet lately actually) and now it's been brought up on pilotfamilies as well about fast paced schools like ATP. Due to my intense fear of getting flammed, I choose not to particiapate in the discussion, despite having my own opinions. People either seem to love them or hate them. But I think that in a lot of cases, people who really have a bias against other things make these schools the scapegoats. Yes, the issues go hand in hand, but one is not the root cause of the other.
I think one of the biggest causes is that they are then turning out low time pilots who go on to get hired by airlines. Some people don't like it b/c they had to work harder to get hired than these low time guys. Is that the schools fault? Hardly. The most the school does is churn out the pilots with ratings. There is no guarentee that the pilot will get hired. The intent is for the student to continue building their skills through other flying jobs. The schools have nothing to do with the minimums that the airlines set for hiring. It's not like the regionals are sitting around saying "well, ATP is sending them out with only 300 hours, I guess we'll have to hire them with that then..." Yes, you may have had to go through a sting of crappy jobs flying pipelines or hauling scientists on whale watching duty, but is it a new person's fault that the industry requirements have changed? Hardly. Take it out on the airline, not the school.
Looking deeper, I can to examine my own bias' here and I can empathize with what some of these guys feel. I think about those ads I see for "get your BS degree in as little as 18 months" or "MBA in 1 years time". I went to college for 4 years to get a BS degree- do I think it's fair that someone should be able to get one in a shorter time? Not really. They should have to spend the same amount of time that I did. Do I feel maybe those people missed out on something by rushing through getting a degree and not taking as broad a range of classes? (those programs work by double dipping coursework and making all classes relevant to the study program- not just English 1A, but English 1A with a focus on the stuff you'd do as a XXX) Sure I do. If I met one of them would I feel superior because I had a "better" BS than they did? Secrectly- probably. Even though if it's an accredited school, the program has to meet specific guidelines just like my school had to.
Another big issue is the speed at which people complete the fast paced schools- usually 5-10 months and they have all their ratings. As opposed to people who take years to complete it through their local FBO. Just because it took you longer, does that mean you have more knowledge and are a better pilot? Probably not. A pilot with 300 hrs and 5 ratings has the same knowledge (in the theory anyway, the actual depends on who they learned from...) whether they got the hours in 3 months or 3 years.
The schools work on the principle of immersion. Aviation is ALL you think about. All day, every day. Flying, simming, ground school, studying. And for most, you live in an environment where everyone else is doing the same thing. When you focus on nothing but aviation, it's easier to remember the lessons and progress quickly; there is less having to go back and relearn what you did a week ago. Immersion is the same principle that the airlines use to train people. They take you out of your normal environment and put you in one where you and your peers are focusing on nothing but flying airplanes. There is no flying your regular route while also taking classes to upgrade or getting a new type rating- you focus on one thing at a time. If the airlines believe the principle works for their own training, why wouldn't they believe it works for other students?
Immersion education is hardly new and I am a firm believer. If you ever took a language in high school or college, how hard was it to learn when you only spoke it for 1 or 2 hours a day? Twice I went abroad as an exchange student and had a working fluency of the language in 6 weeks. When you are surrounded by what you are studying, it's a lot easier to learn. Language immersion schools are all over the place and in big demand. In the SF area, where we were, we had french, german, russian, chinese, japanese, and spanish immersion schools. Here in Jax, there are two seperate spanish immersion programs in the public school system. There are immersion schools for aviation mechanics, culinary arts, fashion and arts... proof that the concept works in a variety of settings.
Admittedly, the fast paced learning is not for everyone. Some people just can't learn quickly and need more time. It's an innate thing. I'm not ashamed to admit that I have the worst time learning new math concepts. Especially if its a new concept or you don't have a good base to build on. It is one of the fast-paced schools downfalls, especially in the area where A works- add ons. He has a set amount of time (usually a few days)Â to teach someone new skills. He doesn't have time to work on foundation skills that might be lacking that would help improve the new skills he's trying to teach. The school makes a promise and it's up to him to be able to fulfill it. He's definetly had some students that have needed more time, but have had to take check-rides. They would have been better off in a slower paced program. But are they bad pilots? Not necessarily.
I don't think that there is a resolution to the argument and I always read the discussions with interest. I'll probably end up posting more about it in the future. There are two quotes that came up in the last big discussion on JC. I don't have the inclination to make the effort to search and properly attribute the quotes to those who said them, but hey, it's just a blog after all. The first was "well planes don't seem to be falling out of the sky even though there are all these low time pilots flying them" and the second was "in a few months, that 400 hour guy will be just another 1000+ hours guy walking around and no one will think anything about him" In the end- if the person is a good pilot, where they got their training won't make a difference.